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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Fenelon had written at the first news of his illness


It

was a desperate but a short struggle. Disease and grief were victorious over the most sublime courage. "It was the spectacle of a man beside himself, who was forcing himself to keep the surface smooth, and who succumbed in the attempt." The dauphin took to his bed on the 14th of February; he believed himself to be poisoned, and said, from the first, that he should never recover. His piety alone, through the most prodigious efforts, still kept up; he spoke no more, save to God, continually lifting up his soul to him in fervent aspirations. "What tender, but tranquil views! What lively motions towards thanksgiving for being preserved from the sceptre and the account that must be rendered thereof! What submission, and how complete! What ardent love of God! What a magnificent idea of infinite mercy! What pious and humble awe! What invincible patience! What sweetness! What constant kindness towards all that approached him! What pure charity which urged him forward to God! France at length succumbed beneath this last chastisement; God gave her a glimpse of a prince whom she did not deserve. Earth was not worthy of him; he was already ripe for a blessed eternity!"

"For some time past I have feared that a fatality hung over the dauphin," Fenelon had written at the first news of his illness; "I have at the bottom of my heart a lurking apprehension that God is not yet appeased towards France. For a long while He has been striking, as the

prophet says, and His anger is not yet worn out. God has taken from us all our hope for the Church and for the State."

Fenelon and his friends had expected too much and hoped for too much; they relied upon the dauphin to accomplish a work above human strength; he might have checked the evil, retarded for a while the march of events, but France carried simultaneously in her womb germs of decay and hopes of progress, both as yet concealed and confused, but too potent and too intimately connected with the very sources of her history and her existence for the hand of the most virtuous and most capable of princes to have the power of plucking them out or keeping them down.

There was universal and sincere mourning in France and in Europe. The death of the little Duke of Brittany, which took place a few days after that of his parents, completed the consternation into which the court was thrown. The most sinister rumors circulated darkly; a base intrigue caused the Duke of Orleans to be accused; people called to mind his taste for chemistry and even magic, his flagrant impiety, his scandalous debauchery; beside himself with grief and anger, he demanded of the king to be sent to the Bastille; the king refused curtly, coldly, not unmoved in his secret heart by the perfidious insinuations which made their way even to him, but too just and too sensible to entertain a hateful lie, which, nevertheless, lay heavy on the Duke of Orleans to the end of his days.

[Illustration: Louis XIV. in Old Age----47]

Darkly, but to more effect, the same rumors were renewed before long. The Duke of Berry died at the age of twenty-seven on the 4th of May, 1714, of a disease which presented the same features as the scarlet fever (_rougeole vourpree_) to which his brother and sister-in-law had succumbed. The king was old and sad; the state of his kingdom preyed upon his mind; he was surrounded by influences hostile to his nephew, whom he himself called "a vaunter of crimes." A child who was not five years old remained sole heir to the throne.


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